From Diary 1, we
head ever further out
25. My neighbour's clock summons to activity at six thirty, and I continuous the writing. A bit anxious about our camp, I wakes up in some astonishing surroundings. We are in a narrow gorge, in which a narrow creak falls and runs through. I walk up on the top, where I find an amassing view over a waste valley. Compared with the landscape we have been through the last couple of days, this is surely something else! The rocks are old coral reef, a bit strange to find on the top of an arid country, I think.
I skip the cold shower, and we leaves the camp at eight. Bit late, but we are only heading the 50 kilometres back to Joubert's Pass to check out what looked like baobab, which not are supposed to grow here. It was too dark to make any qualified guesses and especially photos last knight.
The extremely rough and wining road we took last knight, in pitch dark, is a back-breaker even at daytime. Even the river we crossed is still a challenge; Huge boulders kind of blocks the way n the middle of the stream. It is only six kilometres, but it takes more than half an hour. Guess it were faster in the dark, where the photo stops didn't exist.
Back pass the Sesfontein road and into the mountains on C43. It is a lovely morning, and we have it all for our selves. Well, except for the road worker we give a lift to his machine. And the car we meet at the top of the pass, which engine have boiled over. We gives him a five litre can of water, shoot some photos of the astonishing surroundings, and head back.
The light are perfect, and it turns out it was Moringa oleifera we spotted last knight. Not much leaves, but nice looking stems never the less. Almost out of the mountain range, we spot some Cyphostemmas. It turns out to be giant Cyphostemma uter, standing on almost barren fields. They are just started to get leaves, and their fruits are fare from ripen. Never the less, it is a great finding for us.
I check out the surrounding area, and discovers what looks like a Hoodia gordonii and a Staphelia. Both seems to be barley alive, but here, this is the ending of the dry season. The temperature shortly raises to 43C, and I am sure glad for my huge hat. At high noon, I leave no other shadow than the hat!
Here, we find again the weird rocks, looking like someone have been cutting in them. It is flint, but I have never seen anything like it. Some places volcanic rocks can be found, some it is volcanic gravel, and limestone is also common.
Once in a while, we passes small settlements containing of three to fifteen small huts. It is a lovely mix of Hinba, Herero and other cultures which seems to not only remain their culture, but also coexist in pure harmony. There are no crop fields at all, but small groups of cattle crosses the vast country side. Few goats, which surely benefits the rural landscape.
Their huts are small, basic, and from square clay walled huts over the Hinba's small cone shaped cow manure constructions to even tinier branch shelters. There are no trash to be found any where, except from some empty beer bottles along the roads, and they surely don't originates from the inhabitants of these settlements!
Several places, we pass a valley of what could look like a apple farm. Nice, green and round trees, bit apart and yellow grass underneath. Not sure of the species, but I doubt is is crop in any form. Besides from that we are still driving through bush savannah, more or less bushed.
There are only few animals to be seen. Few springboks and a impressing Big Buzzard. Heaviest fling bird in the world, they claims. A single oestrus, which to my surprise seems to be safe between two settlements.
We still drives south, and after some time, groups of table mountains show them selves along the horizon. The bushes get sparse, and the grass takes over, and we find some of "our" plants on the small rocky hills along the road. Once I find a real nice looking Cucurbitaceae of the "melon-group".
Real fat Pachypodium lamerei and a "new" Commiphoras with a dark purple stem. First I spot one single six ridged Euphorbias on a hilltop. Astonishing view from here, wide yellow grass valleys, table mountains, groups of lush bushes and a beautiful sky with few white clouds.
The settlements vanish, and more wildlife occurs. Springboks, gemsbok opens the party. We still concentrate on the plants, and find one "new" Commiphora, which seems to be a dwarf. Two new Euphorbias of the "stick-type", Sansevierias, Othonnas, a Euphorbia bush and looking a lot like a Commiphora.
More and more wildlife can be seen, some close o the road, others kilometres our on the yellow grass plains. Jackals, gemsbok, gazelles, eland antelopes, zebras and fowls. While botanising, I spot, what I think might be track of elephants. First some chewed branches, then dung. Back on the road, I see the tracks of what I assumes must be a large, lone bull elephant.
We follows the tacks, and finally we catch up with a old, lone desert elephant bull. He is standing rather close to the road, but when he walks away, we passes a dip and follows by foot We have the wind in our back and chatters while we closes in on him. When he confronts us, we stop. Amassing experience: This is not a zoo or a national park, this is truly a wild animal!
Passes a few ridges, and along with a dried out river, a small family group of giraffes stand along the road. Later a group of élan antelopes crosses the road, and a new, larger group of giraffes stands next to the road. Out on the waste plains, I can spot up to 5 or even a hundred grazing animals. Zebras, gemsboks, springboks and other gazelles. A few jackals, but to our release; no lions. Here are still plants to be photoed.
The sun gets low, and it creates a magician view through the yellow grass, leaving the animals as black silhouettes. It is getting late, and thought by last night, we speed up to reach a camp in Palmwag before dark. But we just have to stop for one more breathtaking view or a even fatter Pachypodium or Cyphostemma. The fifth car of the day passes.
The first lodge we see is Palmwag Lodge. It is seven o'clock, and high time. The lodge is perfect with large undisturbed, clean sites. Electricity on each, nice baths and only 80N$ each. There are even a sheltered, platform for the tents. I have gotten way too much sun and have to be more careful the next days. Even though the sun is vertical at high noon, I still get burned in neck and on the arms while I photos - ant that is a lot. Until now, I have shot 1200, and I am restraining my selves!
After supper, we work on photos and diary. The power fails, and we are under heavy attack from the numerous insects, attracted by our computer screens. Lots of black beetles, big light brown ones, flies, mouths, and a giant insect, looking like a dragon fly, but with a less intimidating head. Finish around midnight, and enjoy the silence - for several minutes, before I pass out.
26. After six hours of death-like sleep, new adventures calls. While we eat breakfast, a couple of horned billed birds pops bye. They sit on the front of our car, which I find a bit strange, until I find out they are trying to steel the rubber from it's vipers. Rubber robber?
First, we head a bit back to get some nice shoots of the short and very fat Pachypodium lamerei, we saw last evening. Here are also an new form of Sesamothamnus guerichii The plains, which seem to be covered with wildlife last evening are almost bare. Only a few springboks can be seen. Find a few other nice, fat bushes, a Cucurbitaceae and returns pass the lodge to Palmwag.
As the name indicates, it is a road, not a town. A gasoline station, a animal disease checkpoint and ten small huts spread over a vast area. The area is famous for it's oasis and the huge amount of wild animals, especially the stronghold of the dessert elephants.
We head east on the C40 to have a look around Grootberg Pass. It is situated in 1540 meters height, next to the 1645 meters tall Grootberg. Here are a bit fertile for our plants, but on a tall, almost vertical cliff wall, we spot a group of Cyphostemma currori on the Palmwag side.
The climb is hard; steep but loos gravel, but it is worth it! A huge, and real nice looking plant, around one and half meter in diameter at the base, around four meters tall, with two main stems. It have a single develop pair of leaves and a lot new coming. As the other we have seen, the seeds are fare from ripen, and there are still a few flowers.
After some time, I figure I got photos enough, and climb down to a cup of coffee. While I am half way down, the sun emerges, but I let my travel companion do the great shoots. Takes him an other hour, while I relaxes and write a bit. While the sun come, the temperature goes from 30C to 35C, and real hot in the sun! A single old truck have fought it's way up the hills, else it is only bird- and insect song I hear.
We head further out of the road, which twines between huge hills (actually mountains, but we are on a high plateau), and crosses waste plains. The vegetation might look the same: Green bushes and yellow grass or gravel, but the plants we are after have really specific terms.
We passes a single donkey carriage, which seem to be a fairly common transport the places we have been so fare. Although the wagons are small, there are three or more common, four donkeys side by side.
We head back to Palmwag to fill up gasoline, and passes the Animal Disease Check Point a couple times more. We only need 60 litres, but it seems like I simply can't get the car to do more than seven, and there are fare in-between the gasoline stations, This is situated in the middle of nowhere on a bare hilltop.
Back to C43 and further down south towards Khorixas on C39. For the trained eye, the landscape changes slightly, but we have4 to drive quite a while before we see something new. In a ravine, a single "new" Commiphora catches our eyes, and while we explorer the area, one more turns up. The are real flat but fat. One have thick branches, the other plentiful thin branches. There are almost ripen fruits on both and new flowers are just started. After having checked out a lot, I manages to find a few leaves on each.
On one I find some leaves on a single branch, which doesn't look as I would have supposed. They turns out to have a completely different sent, and it is a parasite. A third little tree looks like a cross between the two others, but even though the dark purple flowers looks almost alike, it have a significantly different sent. The Commiphoras are like perfume this is more like canned sardines. Takes me a while to figure it is a Euphorbia.
The rocks we walk on are a story by them selves. Dark red sandstone-like lava with crystals, some even on the size of a finger. Some looks like flint in layers, other have formed clusters of crystals in holes in the rocks. Time flyers, but we must go on. A car stops to ask, if we are all right. Then he asks for water. I am prepared, and hand over a five litters bottle. He seems to be a bit surprised.
At one point, we passes a huge, natural column of a yellow rock. While I run back to the car, I apparently looses my camera pocket. Discover it later, but it is getting late, and I would hate to be in the same situation as the night before the last, fumbling for a camp. "Only" paid 50€ for it anyway.
Next stop gives a new Euphorbia with nine ridges, and we see huge plants of these in following valleys. In the horizon walls of huge table mountains raises, and the plains in-between seem more and more arid. First, the bushes disappears, then even the yellow grass. We are descending from the high plateau, and getting closer to the costal dunes and the desert. There are even a few but huge dunes on the back side of some of the small mountains.
We are in a deserted area, and camping in the wild would be an option. I have been warned bout it due to robbery, and would like to hide the car somehow. We passes some overgrown small hills, but when we try to drive around them, we discover it is loos sand. Get stuck, but with four-wheel drive, low gear and differential lock, we actually succeed to "swim" out on solid ground. Then it must be a new campsite.
We are in the Twyfelfontain area, which don't have a village, but never the less a few lodges. The first we found looks like something from a Mad Max film. A dark painted castle surrounded with weird looking huts. They don' have campsites, and we drive back on their long, miserable gravel road.
More luck the next place, Xaragu Lodge. Quiet, but as most other places, we are among only a few cars in rather big camps. Due to the dry surroundings, here are almost no noise from birds or insects - but they have a peacock! Nice, clean camp, only charging 60 N€ for each.
Toilets and bath made by stone and straw, but in a real cool way, and lightened by oil-lamps. Rustic but efficient and clean. The water is firewood heated, and it comes in handy. It might not be cool in the evenings - around 20-27C, but due to the serious drop in temperature, and the never failing evening wind, it feels a bit nippy. Fast supper, and for once, I finish writing in dissent time.
27. After eight hours of splendid sleep, I feel ready for some serious exploring. We are rather close to The Petrified Forest, which have been recommended to me by a colleague. The rock impressions of the huge trees is not as impressing as a large group of the long wanted Welwitschia!
A sixteen year boy receives the payment: 20+20+10 N$, and follows me around. He have a good knowledge around the rocks and plants, and is nice relaxed. As on so many tiny stands - one in front of every small hut we passes - there are minerals and funny stones, which have been found around the region.
I turn my attention towards the plants, which sits around the hill with the petrified wood. The are just starting to flower, and while their centre sits real deep, and is very large, their living leaves are not long. I would love to start my measuring on their soil conditions, but is seems like the place is tight looked after.
We drive a bit back, and heads down D2626. Ten kilometres from C39, we find the first "wild" Welwitschias. The grow on the side of a small ravine, quite close to the road. I start taking tests, while my travel companion check out some new Commiphoras. I get numbers on humidity, temperature, pH and volume of different sizes of air pockets. A sample will be tested for mineral composition when I get home.
With only a small detour, we passes The Organ Pipes. #Skiffer# in a river forms these amassing formations, which also offers some great views and plants. At the end of the road, a few hills are made of completely black gravel. On one of them sits a Welwitschia male, which must be the hottest place ever!
Although the surroundings changes all the time, the general components until now have been; yellow grass, gravel hills and green bushes. New, we get anew, dominating item, the giant granite boulders. Just like the Ayres Rock area in Australia, they form steep hills of almost round boulders. Some small, other larger than houses!
The area is dry, huge and astonishing. Wide fields with yellow grass waving for the wind surrounded with dark red mountains, and in the distance; Brandberg Mountain, which towers 2575 meters above the sea, 110 kilometres to the west. We cruses in only 300-600 meters height to day.
It is an other nice, warm day in Namibia. The temperature passes 40C, and even though our water stands in the shadow, it is almost coffee warm. The fake leather on the sides of the seat are way too hot for comfort to my bare legs! We have given up the air condition, which were on a comfy 30C, and have started to drive with the windows open. This causes for a lot of dust, but we should save some gasoline and the planet in general.
We cross - with quite some difficulties - Aba-Huab river. The bed of the dried river contains of loose rough sand, which even with four-wheel drive and differential lock needs a helping hand from the co-driver - in the back. Well over, we are being met with a gorgeous area with almost rose coloured sand, huge Euphorbias and small clusters of huge boulders. The Euphorbia are of a "new" species with frequent narrow areas and nine ridges.
Although the road is in fine condition, we only see a very few huts. A small group of gouts or cow are the only man-creation besides from the road. Even birds seems to be scars, the smaller buzzers which else seems to be common are missing. Strangely enough are here still the same "camel foot tree"¨, with not only large and thin leaven, but plentiful of them.
We meet up with C35 again, and heads towards Uis. On a huge, almost flat hillside, we find a "new" Commiphora. On some of the plants grow parasitic plant, of which I can't even guess the family. We have to quit the botanising, if we want to reach Uis before closing time.
Nice little town, reminding me of the tiny towns of western Australia or New Zealand. Dirt road all the way, and a mix of fancy, colonial and local style. Here are a few birds, one of them is the fantastic bee-eater. Grabs some necessary food items - only 270 N$ - , and head out to Brandberg to find The White Lady Lodge. I find a JungleBar and a sausage roll, which that bring me back to the eastern South Africa tour with Maddy.
Now, we drive through yellow grass and dark, brown rocks with few other ingredients. It is evening, and large harems of springboks can be seen on the nearby plains. Guess we only have seen the bachelors until now. The camp is situated in a waste riverbed. The main house are in a great design, but we drive down to a campsite, with only one other car. We have our own site, several football fields wide, and the only other car is parked so fare away, I can't even tell it's brand.
Each campsite have it's own toilet and bath, and to my big surprise have the water heater on ours been fired this afternoon. We even decided on the side our selves. Traditional design of toilet and bath for southern Africa, except there are no roof at all! Guess it is seldom raining, although I can see some distance lightning. After dark, I discover the "door" is a chain, and there are a sealing: Millions of stars!
The first week have gone, and we have had some amassing days with much more sights than we could have dreamed off. Driven little over 2000 kilometres, and seen less than ten percent of this huge and astonishing country.
But next day reveals more adventures in Diary 3